The Congregational Library & Archives have announced the launch of their digital archive which contains over 100,000 images across more than 4,000 extraordinary historical records that illuminate New England history.
Records from over 100 New England churches in 90 communities, with most records dating between 1634 and 1850, are freely available for those interested in learning more about the history of their state, community or family.
Congregational church records in CLA’s collection offer a rich and remarkable view of life in colonial and early-American New England. Well before the writing of the Constitution, each member in the early Puritan churches had an equal vote, with the power to govern themselves and to choose their own ministers. The records of these congregations document births, deaths, and marriages, but also open a window onto the lives of ordinary people deliberating on matters both sacred and secular. For much of the colonial period, church business was town business, and so beyond the usual information on births, deaths, and marriages, church records show ordinary people making decisions about property, taxation, and their representation in the larger affairs of the colony or state.
The digital archive currently includes over 170 collections that contain manuscript sermons, vital church records, church disciplinary records, minister diaries, the documented religious experiences of everyday Congregationalists across time, and more. CLA will add collections to its digital archive in the months and years ahead.
Many of the documents in the digital archive are being made available to the public for the first time as part of CLA’s New England’s Hidden Histories initiative. In an effort to further increase accessibility for genealogists, historical researchers, students, and all others, thousands of pages of transcription have been produced. Since 2005, the Congregational Library, in partnership with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale and many local churches across New England, has been collecting records from church attics and basements and making them widely accessible through preservation and digitization. Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council on Library and Information Resources have allowed CLA to work with more than a dozen other libraries, historical societies, and cultural institutions to freely provide this wealth of digitized records.